Shopping for bridal attire, high-end designer homewares, major art purchases and luxury fashion garments aren’t fly-in fly-out sort of tasks. It’s critical to rest your heels after lengthy browsing and cool them, too, when confronted by expensive once-in-a-lifetime decisions. From heart-starting caffeine houses to hearty breakfast joints, gossipy lunchtime venues and elegant dining houses, High Street traders have every type of shopping respite covered. We’ve picked a few of our favourites.
Locals know the drill at Cooper and Milla’s, a providore café named after owner Amanda Reuben’s children. Squeeze into a seat along the narrow converted laneway, quote your table number from the flowerpot and wend your way back through the chattering mass to order at the counter. But that’s where everyone runs into trouble.
The incredible array of sumptuous salads, tempting meals and divine cakes and pastries slows the system down. Will it be a house-made granola with poached rhubarb and rose yoghurt, a healthy lentil, sunflower and pomegranate-seed salad, a swirl of noodles tossed with roasted duck, a giant pink meringue or a towering hazelnut torte? Buy one, take two home.
There’s a bit of retro Fitzroy chic to be had at Grapeseed, a three-year-old café with Italian leanings and a generous glass-and-metal-framed frontage. The relaxed menu includes classics such as pizza, risotto and spaghetti bolognaise, but there’s a nod to modern café fare, too. Small tables at the front open to cosy dining spaces and more formal settings in the vast interior. Coloured walls and cushions help keep the mood relaxed, the atmosphere casual and the conversation flowing.
For local workers, Oska Whyte is the company canteen. They know there’s a Mediterranean twist to much of the food here, but there are no hard and fast rules about it, serves are generous and the staff is easy-going. Regulars drop in for toasted Turkish breads, French omelets, pizzette, salads and smoothies. And there’s a rotating list of specials to keep things interesting. For serious shoppers keen to get back to business, the reasonably priced meals and speedy service are appreciated.
With its wide front window and bare timber tables, elegant Barça Food & Wine maximises the impact of its heritage building. Open fireplaces have been retained and there’s a discerning use of modern art. Barca takes its name from Barcelona and chef Damien Burke takes his inspiration from the food of Europe, giving it an Australian twist. Start with a selection from the tapas list – perhaps garlic prawns with black tomato and crusty bread, or mixed-bean empanadas with smoky aioli. The wine list includes a good by-the-glass offering and the generous bottle list offers a studious mix of old- and new-world wines.
Another one to put on your list at the end of a long day’s shopping is Malaysian/Chinese restaurant Cina. Assured service, crisp, white tablecloths, a studious wine list and an impressive dim sum offering have ensured this venue is popular with locals celebrating special occasions. Malay, Thai, Indian and Singaporean dishes feature too, and there’s both a nod to tradition and modern cuisine.
Further along High Street also try: the recently refurbished Mt Erica Hotel, built in 1853; the delightful Spoonful and next-door neighbour café Teaspoon; Italian bistro Cucina Vostra; Thai on High and classic Japanese restaurant Sozai.
Cooper and Milla's \ 1094 High Street, 9500 8127
Barça Food & Wine \ 1007 High Street, 9822 8515, www.barca.com.au
Grapeseed \ 1084 High Street, 9500 2566
Oska Whyte \ 1013 High Street, 9822 4004
Cina \ 1183 High Street, 9824 4102 www.cina1183.com.au